Our Right to Decide: NT senator confident territory rights bill will pass

NT Senator Sam McMahon is confident her bill to restore the NT's right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying will pass parliament's upper house. Picture: Keegan Carroll
NT Senator Sam McMahon is confident her bill to restore the NT's right to legislate on voluntary assisted dying will pass parliament's upper house. Picture: Keegan Carroll

The architect of the bill to restore the NT's right to legislate on euthanasia says she would be "shocked" if it didn't pass parliament's upper house.

But Country Liberal Senator Sam McMahon admits she's in a race against time amid the persistent threat of pandemic-related disruptions, with her career in politics set to end at the next federal election.

Senator McMahon's comments come as a survey conducted by The Canberra Times shows support across parliament for the two territories to again be allowed to legislate on voluntary assisted dying.

Senator McMahon last month introduced legislation to restore the NT Parliament's right to make its own euthanasia laws, almost a quarter of a century after it was stripped of that power by a bill championed by Liberal backbencher Kevin Andrews.

The NT senator decided to exclude the ACT from her bill after local Liberal Senator Zed Seselja signalled he wouldn't support it.

Senator McMahon's legislation will be the first test of the Federal Parliament's position on territory rights since August 2018, when David Leyonhjelm's bill was defeated in the Senate by two votes and never reached the lower house.

The new bill will be subject to a parliamentary inquiry, which is due to report its findings on October 6.

While acknowledging she had work to do to "sell the bill" to both her Nationals party room colleagues and across parliament, she was confident it would gain enough votes to at least pass the Senate.

That would set up a vote in the House of Representatives, possibly on the eve of a federal election.

"I'd be shocked if there was any great opposition [in the Senate]," Senator McMahon told The Canberra Times.

"I'd be surprised if it didn't pass - I'm quite confident."

Asked to explain why she believed her bill would succeed where David Leyonhjelm's had failed, Senator McMahon said: "Time and society has moved on."

Since the defeat of the Leyonhjelm bill, SA, Tasmania and Western Australia have joined Victoria in passing laws to allow voluntary assisted dying in their jurisdictions. Queensland is set to debate assisted dying legislation later this month, while a bill was set to be introduced in NSW before its Delta outbreak shut down parliament.

While optimistic about the bill's prospects of passing parliament, Senator McMahon accepted time was not on her side.

The senator lost a Country Liberal Party preselection battle in June, meaning her one-term career in parliament will end at the next federal election. The latest date for a normal federal election is late May.

The pandemic could cause further disruptions, particularly if this year's remaining parliamentary sittings are constrained.

"The main concern for me is COVID and timing," she said.

"I don't want this to drag into next year when I might have left. I don't want COVID to derail it."

The Canberra Times asked all 151 lower house members and 76 senators to state whether or not they would support a repeal of the near-quarter-century-old law which blocks the ACT and NT from legalising assisted dying.

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Senator McMahon's proposal would have the effect of repealing the so-called Andrews Bill as it relates to the NT, but not the ACT.

Two Nationals senators responded to the The Canberra Times' survey: Queenslander Matt Canavan was opposed to repealing the laws, while Perin Davey from NSW was supportive.

Senator McMahon is confident some parliamentarians, who would have ordinarily voted against her proposal because of their opposition to euthanasia, could be swayed because her bill contains other elements.

This includes measures related to workplace laws and land acquisitions in the NT.

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This story 'I'd be shocked': NT senator confident territory rights bill will pass first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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